Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/21/11

As we do pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #467:

Cannonball Adderley – Mercy Mercy Mercy: Live at the Club

More than virtually any other artist, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley successfully bridged the gap between R&B and jazz: he was terrifically popular in the urban juke joint scene, and did his best work live. This 1966 album with a kick-ass band including brother Nate on cornet and a young Joe Zawinul on piano gets the nod because it doesn’t have any of the schlock he occasionally tried to jazz up, like stuff from Fiddler on the Roof. Right off the bat, he spirals all over the place on the opening theme, aptly titled Fun, followed by the swinging proto-funk of Games, the title track (a surprise top 20 hit), the fiery Sticks, Zawinul’s Hippodelphia and a killer, eleven-minute version of Adderley’s own Sack O’Woe, taking the set out on an exhilarating note. If you like this stuff, get to know his other 60s material: it’s pretty much all great. As Joe Strummer said, only half-sarcastically, “Don’t step on my Cannonball Adderley lp’s or cds.” Here’s a random torrent.

October 20, 2011 Posted by | jazz, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Benny Sharoni’s Retro Jazz Is a Hit

The last jazz album we reviewed was noisy, frenetic and half rock. This one is all melody, laid-back and gorgeously oldschool. It’s one of those sleeper albums that you can put on and fool your snob friends with – just tell them it’s a rare reissue from fifty years ago, and most of them will buy it. Boston-based tenor saxophonist Benny Sharoni assembled a first-rate band to join him in a convivially expansive, purist mood on his new album Eternal Elixir. Joey “Sonny” Barbato (whose 2006 cd Crackerjack is a genuine classic and one of the finest of its rare kind, an accordion jazz album) plays piano here, joined by Barry Ries on trumpet, Mike Mele on guitar, Todd Baker on bass and Steve Langone on drums, with Kyle Aho taking over the 88s on four of the tracks. The vibe here is retro in a refreshing way: it feels like one of those early 60s Impulse albums, driven by camaraderie rather than showboating, the kind of date players record because they have something they think is worth capturing, rather than simply to satisfy the terms of a label deal.

The album opens with Bernstein, Sharoni’s propulsive tribute to the conductor/composer, Barbato’s fluidly precise runs echoed by Sharoni further on. French Spice, a tastily catchy Donald Byrd tune from 1961 that moves deftly from hypnotic pulse to proto-funk to straight-up swing and back again, Sharoni taking his cue from Wayne Shorter’s casually soulful performance on that song (as he does on another Byrd composition here, an understated version of the vampy Pentecostal Feelin’). Barbato’s terse, understated solo turns with a grin from blithe to bluesy in a split second. The version of Estate here mutes its bossa origins, recasting it as slow swing and stripping it down to its inner soul with aptly summery, almost minimalist solos from Barbato and then Sharoni. Likewise, the band breathes new life into Bobby Hebb’s Sunny as a latin jazz number, a launching pad for some lively melismas and trills from Ries and some impressively straight-up blues from Aho.

Benito’s Bossa Bonita, an original gets the same casually comfortable, easy-wearing swing of Estate, with a couple of especially choice, effortlessly congenial solos from Sharoni and a terse conversation between Aho’s piano and Baker’s bass. To Life, based on the 1964 Cannonball Adderley version, maintains the laid-back bluesy mood, Ries (with a mute) and then Sharoni gimlet-eyed and content while Barbato keeps watch with sharp, incisively staccato chords. Another original, Cakes, sways with a distant Donald Fagen feel (Sharoni is a fan, having discovered Steely Dan as solace during his mandatory tour of duty in the Israeli army, a low point in his life), and a moody, reverb-tinged Mele solo. The album winds up with The Thing to Do, a cagy, swinging Blue Mitchell tune from 1964 and Senor Papaya, which takes its title from Sharoni’s papaya-grower father back home in Israel. Sharoni admits it’s quite ironic since Sr. Papaya himself is so laid-back and the song anything but. The Benny Sharoni Quartet plays Fridays in August at 8:30 PM at Winslow’s Tavern in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Clayton Brothers – Brother to Brother

Beautifully oldschool, golden-age late 50s/early 60s style jazz by this highly regarded mostly family unit. Everybody in the Clayton Brothers has a distinct persona, although they all break character and surprise from time to time. Bandleader/bassist John Clayton is the suave one; his sax-playing brother Jeff is the party animal. Trumpeter Terell Stafford is the hard hitter, drummer Obed Calvaire (John Clayton’s “adopted” son) the no-nonsense purist with a BS detector set to stun, with pianist Gerald Clayton (John’s kid) the clear star of the show, a powerhouse player with a vivid, often plaintive tone and a devious sensibility that really rears its head live but also cuts through the arrangements here from time to time, as if to say, did you just hear me do that? Are you listening? In so doing, he sets the standard here: they’re all pushing each other hard, and having a good time in the process. This is a great ipod album.

 

It’s a concept cd, a tribute to brother combos in jazz throughout the ages: the Joneses (Elvin, Hank and Thad); Cannonball and Nate Adderley; Monty Alexander and his singer brother Larry; Kenny Burrell and his bassist brother Billy, and others. As you’d expect, there’s a chemistry in the playing here which lights a fire under the crew who aren’t actually blood relatives. The first track is an Elvin Jones tribute, Wild Man, a Jeff Clayton tune punctuated by numerous false endings and some marvelously terse playing by Calvaire that spins off plenty of Elvin tropes without seeming derivative. Stafford and Gerald Clayton both put a bright, vivid spin on it.

 

With a marathon swing in its step and a nod to the Nat Adderley classic More Work, John Clayton’s Still More Work lopes along tirelessly for over ten minutes, highlighted by another glistening Gerald Clayton solo. A cover of Nat Adderley’s Jive Samba gets a wickedly suspenseful treatment, driven by hypnotic, pulsing bass and a Jeff Clayton solo that hints at suspense just enough to create an atmosphere of unease; the Jeff Clayton jump blues Big Daddy Adderleys pays tribute to the whole family, buoyed by playful solos by just about everybody. 

 

The best song on the cd is Kenny Burrell’s Bass Face, done here with a gorgeously terse, catchy So What kind of vibe with sax and trumpet in tandem, counterintuitively melodic, chromatic bass and a noir Twin Peaks feel at the end. From the Keter Betts (Ella Fitzgerald’s last bassist) songbook comes the popular comedy number Walking Bass (bassist goes out to tie one along and brings the bass along – lookout world!), then a plaintive, Monty Alexander-inspired version of the old Broadway standard Where Is Love, and a latin-inflected Jeff Clayton tune, the Jones Brothers, wrapping up the cd on a high note with soulful contributions from the whole crew. Get this for your jazz snob friend who thinks the world stopped when we lost Trane; or for your avant-inclined friend who never heard the classic stuff done like this. All of the players in the group maintain busy schedules with and outside of this project: watch this space for New York dates.

 

In the same way that classical composers plied their craft throughout the ages, this ArtistShare cd was put out by a base of fans who backed the production (anybody remember Bowie bonds?): it ought to pay dividends that extend beyond the excellence of the music.

February 19, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment